Cell is one of the main antagonists of the Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai series, along with Vegeta, Frieza and Buu.
Dragon Ball Z
Cell first appeared as a monster like green insect creature that desired to absorb Androids 17 and 18 to attain his perfect form. He was created by Dr. Gero, who gave him the cells of many of the DBZ heroes, and villains: Goku, Gohan, Piccolo, Yamcha, Krillin, Tien, Chiaotzu, Vegeta, Nappa, Frieza, and King Cold.
Cell came from the future to absorb the Androids 17 and 18 so he could become "perfect", which he could not do in his time because Trunks had killed them both. He killed Trunks and took his time machine, regressing into his larval state so he could fit into it, arriving four years before Trunks would have appeared. He absorbed the inhabitants of Gingertown before fighting Piccolo, and taking a beating from him. He escaped using Solar Flare after Piccolo tricked him into revealing everything to him, and regained his lost strength by absorbing the inhabitants of Nicky Town.
Cell ran off whenever he encountered more than one Z Fighter at once. Soon he sensed Piccolo's energy signal while Piccolo was fighting Android 17, and arrived at the battlefield. Piccolo and 17 attacked Cell, but he beat them up and nearly killed Piccolo with an energy blast through the chest and a broken neck. He then beat up 17 before opening his tail up into a giant sucker to absorb 17, but Android 16 stopped him and beat him up. Cell survived a deadly attack from 16, however, and absorbed 17.
After absorbing Android 17, Cell became much more powerful, and human-like in appearance. Vegeta fought him in his "ascended Saiyan" form, and was almost able to defeat him. Before he could, Cell used Vegeta's pride against him, and was able to convince him to help him absorb Android 18 so Vegeta could have a "real challenge".
Once he had absorbed 18, Cell's powers became far greater than that of the heroes. He easily defeated Vegeta and Trunks after obtaining this form. When fighting Piccolo, Cell got the idea to bring back the World Martial Arts tournament, in the form of the Cell Games. Cell entered a TV station where he told the world about the games, then gave the heroes 10 days to prepare for the games, and told them that if he emerged undefeated, he would destroy the world.
In the Cell games, Cell fought Goku after easily defeating Mr Satan and his students Caroni and Piroshki (though all three survived), and at one point destroyed the ring so the entire desert could be the arena. Goku destroyed Cell's top half with a Kamehameha, but Cell regenerated, though he was weakened nonetheless. After a bit more fighting, Goku gave up and assigned Gohan to fight Cell next. Gohan refused to fight back, telling Cell about his hidden power. Determined to see this power for himself, Cell fought Gohan, but eventually Android 16 jumped on him and tried to self-destruct. However his bomb was removed when Dr. Brief was fixing him, this this tactic didn't work, and Cell destroyed his body.
Cell created clones of himself, which he called Cell Jr, to fight the other heroes and force Gohan to unleash his hidden power. After Cell crushed 16's head, however, Gohan unleashed his full power and turned Super Saiyan 2, killing all seven Cell Jr.'s. He then fought Cell and beat him up. Cell revealed that he was not even using half of his true power, and powered up to what is most likely 50% of his full power, dramatically increasing his strength and speed, but Gohan was unaffected by any attacks and punched Cell twice, inflicting serious damage. After Cell realized he couldn't beat Gohan, he attempted to blow up the earth with a Kamehameha, but Gohan overpowered him with his own Kamehameha, destroying most of his limbs. Cell regenerated and powered up to his full power; however, he was too big and slow to even hit Gohan, who kicked him in the stomach, forcing him to regurgitate Android 18 and revert to his second form. Knowing he was about to lose, he started to set off the bomb that had been placed in his body, and Goku nobly decides to be the one to take care of him, He used Instant Transmission to transport him to King Kai's planet, in order to avoid the destruction of Earth. Goku, King Kai, Bubbles, Gregory, and 17 were killed in the blast, but this did not destroy Cell however, because, as Cell revealed, as long as a single cell of him still existed
Upon reappearing, Cell killed Trunks with a beam of energy and Vegeta attacked him in a rage. Though Vegeta's assault wasn't able to injure Cell and Gohan took a hit from Cell to save Vegeta, injuring his arm and decreasing his energy in the process. However, he was able to manage a one-handed Kamehameha, entering a beam struggle with Cell. With guidance from his deceased father, and help from Vegeta, who hit Cell with a Big Bang at the last second, Gohan was able to overpower Cell and completely destroy him once and for all.
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